Selfishness is Not Self-Care

Nicole R. Smith
4 min readSep 23, 2022

I encourage everyone to put yourself first as you should. Just like on a plane with the oxygen mask situation, how can you help others if you don’t take care of yourself first? I believe in that whole-heartedly. However, I caution you, although you should be self-centered (making sure you are putting yourself first) don’t be selfish — meaning only thinking about yourself.

What would it look like if you were on a plane, the oxygen masks drop, you grab and put yours on….and then you dig through your purse, or stop to take a selfie, or finish up that last section of the article you were reading while the person next to you is still gasping for air. None of us would ever dream of doing something like that.

I have noticed with the uptick in the self-care movement, in efforts of people taking care of themselves, which is VITAL, selfishness has been creeping in and the reason given? Oh, well it was self-care.

Self-Care isn’t failing to make a deadline that your coworker was relying on because you had to take care of yourself. That is selfish — Self-Care is, I need to handle this situation and I am going to find a back up to make sure my coworker’s needs are met in the meantime.

Self-care is not an excuse to become unreliable or unaccountable. Yes, sometimes self-care may inconvenience others at times and that is understandable, but it should be the exception not the rule. These days, it seems more and more I see it being used as an excuse to not stay true to one’s word or abuse a situation leaving those around the person scrambling to pick up pieces and carry the person’s burden.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe 100% in self-care and sometimes, life happens and you can’t avoid that. Sometimes, we overwhelm ourselves and we don’t realize just how much we have taken on until it becomes unbearable. The beauty of it is, in the second instance, you can use the simple, yet equally difficult, tool of setting boundaries to maximize self -care.

One of the most powerful elements of self-care, in my opinion, is learning how to say no…. ahead of time, instead of saying yes to a lot of commitments then feeling overwhelmed and not sticking to your commitment.

I also believe in the humanity of people, and that most people don’t intend to be selfish and are unaware of how their behavior is effecting others around them. However, we still have to remember that although we don’t intend to hurt or inconvenience someone, it doesn’t mean that it still doesn’t happen and they don’t feel the effects of it.

Think about it. We could be playing around and I accidentally hit you in the stomach and knock the wind out of you. You know that I had no intention of hurting you, but it doesn’t mean you don’t still feel the brunt of the blow.

Listen, saying no and looking at the big pictue isn’t easy and is a skill to be mastered. I am still learning it! I have to tell you, my next two months are ferociously busy. I am working on NINE projects outside of my 9 to 5, not to mention a whole bunch of family stuff going on. I have let parts of my self-care routine slide and I am feeling it. So, I am fighting for myself to get back to a place of balance but making sure that I am also not inconviening others at the same time.

Look, no one did this to me, I did it to myself. I kept saying “yes”. So now here I am. In the midst of it though, I have been very intentional about certain things that will help me maintain until everything wraps up. The first of those being, say “no” to anything else. Also, making sure I actually eat, drink lots of water (puts pointer finger up to indicate pause and takes gulp of water) and breathe fresh air at least once a day.

Listen, life happens and we all know that. I believe people are extending grace and being more understanding when it does, now more than ever. All I ask is that you don’t take advantage of people’s good grace.

On that note, I encourage you, take care of yourself. Put yourself first. Just don’t let yourself be the only thing that matters.

Nicole R. Smith standing in front of a pond looking at some ducks and smiling

Nicole (@nicolersmithnet) is a Panamanian-American, workforce development specialist, dancer, motivational speaker and published author of Game On! Relentlessly Pursue Your Dreams and the 101 Affirmations Journal Series. She attended Oral Roberts University on a Division I full-ride track scholarship. After graduating, she founded Step It Up! Inc., a non-profit dance organization. Her experience in sports and entertainment, radio, TV, the performing arts and social services has spanned nearly 20 years covering the Chicago, Houston, Miami and Orlando markets. She has danced and cheered for four Professional and Semi-Professional sports teams, has prepared more than 800 interns to enter the workforce and has inspired crowds upwards of 2000. She received the Emerging Leaders ALIVE Impact Award for Volunteer Administrators, was listed as one of WLRN’s “Local Women Who Inspire You”, and was selected as one of Legacy Miami’s MOST PROMINENT AND INFLUENTIAL BLACK WOMEN IN BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY OF 2019. She sits on the Board of the Association of Leaders In Volunteer Management and Ageless Chic Magazine, and is a mentor for Tessitura Network’s Early Career Development program.



Nicole R. Smith

Nicole is a Panamanian-American, single mom, workforce development specialist, published author, dancer, and motivational speaker. Her experience spans 20 yrs.